6 ways you're wasting gas

It's not easy to break bad driving habits, but if you don't, the money you lose on gas could wind up breaking your bank.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer

car_mirror.03.jpg
Tailgating is dangerous, and it wastes gas. Do everyone a favor and back off.
Photos
America's Money: Gas crunch hits home America's Money: Gas crunch hits home America's Money: Gas crunch hits home
The record-high price of gasoline is putting a strain on motorists - and spurring some to shift their habits. Here are their stories.
Autos
36 month new5.91%
48 month new5.98%
60 month new6.03%
72 month new3.78%
36 month used6.31%

Find personalized rates:
 

Rates provided by Bankrate.com.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With all the worry over fuel prices, you'd think drivers would do whatever they can not to waste gas. But look around and you'll see lots of them tooling around as if they owned their own tanker fleet. One of them might be you.

Here are six ways drivers typically waste gas every on every trip:

1. Racing away from green lights

When the light turns green, you don't have to take off as quickly as possible. That pedal under your right foot is called the "gas pedal" for a good reason. The more you press down on it, the more gas you're pumping into the engine.

Press lightly on the gas pedal, and you'll still accelerate, and you'll still get where you're going. You might be surprised at how little pressure it takes to get your car up to speed in a reasonable time.

2. Racing up to red lights

When you're driving down the street, and you see a light red light or stop sign up ahead, you should lay off the gas sooner rather than later.

There's no point in keeping your foot on the gas until just before you reach the intersection. Let off the pedal sooner and give your engine a rest as you coast to the stop while braking gently. As an added benefit, your brake pads will last longer, too.

By themselves, these first two tips can improve your fuel economy around town by as much as 35 percent, according to tests conducted by automotive information Web site Edmunds.com.

3. Confusing the highway with a speedway

Even if it doesn't involve hard acceleration, speeding wastes gas. The faster you go, the more air your vehicle has to push out of the way. It's like moving your hand through water. The faster you try to move your hand, the harder the water pushes back.

In tests by Consumer Reports, driving at 75 miles per hour instead of 65 miles per hour reduced fuel economy by between 3 and 5 miles per gallon, depending on the vehicle.

4. Bumper-buzzing

Tailgating is a bad move for many reasons. First of all, it's unsafe. You reduce your ability to react if the car in front of you slows or stops. It also means you have to pay ultra-close attention to that car which reduces your ability to scan for other hazards ahead of you and to the sides.

And tailgating wastes gas. Every time the driver ahead taps his brakes, you have to slow down even more than he did. (That's because you can't react immediately so you have to slow even more because you're slowing down later.) Then you accelerate again to get back up to speed and resume your bumper-buzzing routine.

Hang back and you'll be safer - plus you'll be able to drive more smoothly and use less fuel. A good rule of thumb is to allow two seconds of space between your car and the one ahead. You can figure that out by counting off two seconds after the car in front of you passes an obvious landmark like an overpass.

5. Driving standing still

You've probably heard that it takes more gas to restart a car than to let it run. Maybe that used to be true, but it isn't anymore. With modern fuel-injection engines, it takes very little extra gas to restart a car once it's warmed up.

Idling, meanwhile, burns about a half-mile worth of gas every minute, according to the California Energy Commission. That's why hybrid cars shut down their gasoline engines whenever they stop, even for a moment.

Now you don't want to shut your engine down for every little stop in your regular, non-hybrid car - it's not designed for that - but if you're waiting for someone to run in and out of a convenience store, turn off the engine.

And don't go through the drive-through at fast food restaurants. You're already paying enough for the oil in those chicken nuggets.

Bonus tip: Don't idle your engine to let it warm up before driving. It does your engine no good and it wastes gas. Instead, start driving right away, but drive gently until the engine is warm.

6. Short hops

For really short trips, take advantage of the opportunity to get some exercise. Try walking to the store instead of driving. You can save gas and burn a few calories instead.

If you can't hoof it, save up your errands. A lot of short hops that let the engine cool down at home between trips can use twice as much gas as starting the car once and making a big sweep to all your stops, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Go to your farthest destination first so your engine has a chance to reach its optimal operating temperature. Then make your other stops on the way back. With the engine warmed up, the car will restart easily and run efficiently all the way home.

Are you feeling the pinch of high gas prices? Tell us how gas prices are affecting you and what you're doing to cope. Send us your photos and videos, or email us to share your story. To top of page

Features
They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
For sale: Steve McQueen's 1967 Ferrari The red 1967 sports car is expected to fetch millions at auction. More
The 13 most WTF gadgets From the weird to the gross, these 13 gadgets will make you wonder why they even exist. More
Best-loved cars in America These cars and trucks topped J.D. Power's APEAL survey, which measures how much owners like their new vehicles. More


Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.